Upon relationship breakdown where children are involved, a child support order will be granted and, often times, registered with the Maintenance Enforcement Program (“MEP”). It is common to simply include a clause which is general, for example, “The Father will pay to the Mother child support in the amount of $500 per month commencing on the first day of May 1, 2019 and continuing on the first day of each month until the child is no longer a child of the marriage as defined by the Divorce Act.” However, relying a clause such as this can lead to problems with MEP enforcement down the road, particularly if child support will be payable after the child reaches adulthood (for example, if they are attending post-secondary).
If you have a child support order with a general clause for child support, such as the one above, it is MEP’s policy to investigate the child’s status three months before your child will reach the age of majority for the purposes of determining whether support enforcement should stop or continue. MEP will only continue to enforce support payments where an adult child continues to be financially dependent because they are a full-time student. Where this is the case, MEP will continue to enforce child support payments until one of the following situations occurs:
- The child stops being a full-time student;
- The child completes their first degree, diploma or certificate;
- The child marries; or
- The child turns 22 years.
This can lead to issues when your child is still attending full-time school after age 22 or your child takes a semester off before returning to school.
Additionally, MEP will also not continue enforcement in any other situation after your child reaches the age of majority, including if your child is disabled, has a medical condition, or attends school on a part-time basis. In order to enforce child support past the age of 22 where your child is attending school full-time or past the age of majority in any other situation, MEP requires a new court order be provided which clearly states that child support is to continue.
The key to dealing with this policy is specificity. MEP will enforce child support orders that provide specific direction on when child support is to be payable and for how long. When you are in the process of separating from your partner, it pays to think ahead and consider the various possibilities that will require payment of child support.
At Richmond Tymchuk Family Law LLP, our lawyers have extensive experience in child support matters and drafting orders that are enforceable with MEP. Call (403) 908-0655 or email us to learn how we can help you.